Obama Signs Anti-Smoking Bill

Editors Note: This is not going to outlaw smoking but it will definitely have an impact on the way tobacco products are marketed.

Obama signs anti-smoking bill

Obama signs anti-smoking bill

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer – June 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama cited his own long struggle to quit the cigarettes he got hooked on as a teenager as he signed the nation’s strongest-ever anti-smoking bill Monday and praised it for providing critically needed protections for kids.

“The decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious,” Obama said at a signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

The bill marks the latest legislative victory for Obama’s first five months. Among his other successes: a $787 billion economic stimulus bill, legislation to expand a state program providing children’s health insurance and a bill making it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination.

The president has frequently spoken, in the White House and on the campaign trail, of his own struggles to quit smoking. He brought it up during Monday’s ceremony while criticizing the tobacco industry for marketing its products to young people.

Obama said almost 90 percent of people who smoke began at age 18 or younger, snared in a dangerous and hard-to-kick habit.

“I know — I was one of these teenagers,” Obama said. “So I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time.”

Before dozens of invited guests, including children from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the president signed legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration unprecedented authority to regulate tobacco.

Obama accused the tobacco industry of targeting young people, exposing them to a “constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting.”

The new law bans candy and fruit flavors in tobacco products, and it limits advertising that could attract young people.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act also allows the FDA to lower the amount of addiction-causing nicotine in tobacco products and block misleading labels such “low tar” and “light.” Tobacco companies also will be required to cover their cartons with large graphic warnings.

The law won’t let the FDA ban nicotine or tobacco outright.

“It is a law that will save American lives,” Obama said.

Anti-smoking advocates looked forward to the bill after years of attempts to control an industry so fundamental to the U.S. that carved tobacco leaves adorn some parts of the Capitol.

Opponents from tobacco-growing states such as top-producing North Carolina argued that the FDA had proved through a series of food safety failures that it was not up to the job of regulation. They also said that instead of unrealistically trying to get smokers to quit or to prevent others from starting, lawmakers should ensure that people have other options, like smokeless tobacco.

As president, George W. Bush opposed the legislation and threatened a veto after it passed the House last year. The Obama administration, by contrast, issued a statement declaring strong support for the measure.

———————– Obama Pledges to Sign Anti-Smoking Bill—————————–

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer – June 13, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is lauding the passage of historic anti-smoking legislation that gives the government sweeping authority to regulate tobacco products, pledging to quickly sign the measure into law.

“For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is,” said Obama, who has struggled for years to kick his own nicotine habit.

The House on Friday gave final approval to the bill after a bitter fight lasting nearly a half-century. The measure for the first time will give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate what goes into tobacco products, demand changes or elimination of toxic substances and block the introduction of new products.

Lawmakers and the White House quickly declared it would save the lives of thousands of smokers of all ages. Even more important, they said, the measure could keep countless young people from starting in the first place.

The thousand health and consumer groups that endorsed the bill say that, combined with other anti-smoking efforts, it can significantly reduce the 400,000 deaths and $100 billion in health care costs attributed every year to smoking in the U.S.

Under the legislation:

• Cigarette packages will have warning labels that cover 50 percent of the front and rear. The word “warning” must be included in capital letters.

• Any remaining tobacco-related sponsorships of sports and entertainment events will be banned, as will giveaways of non-tobacco items with the purchase of a tobacco product. A federal ban will be imposed on all outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

• Point-of-sale advertising will be limited to adults-only facilities, and remaining vending machines will disappear except in places restricted to adults. Retailers who sell to minors will be subject to federal enforcement and penalties.

• Smokers, particularly the younger crowd, will find they can no longer buy cigarettes sweetened by candy flavors or any herb or spices such as strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon or vanilla. Cigarettes advertised as “light” or “mild,” giving the impression that they aren’t as harmful to health, will no longer be found on store shelves.

With an estimated 3,500 young people smoking their first cigarette each day, the ban on flavorings alone could have significant health benefits, said Dr. Adam Goldstein, director of the University of North Carolina Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program.

He said it was not inconceivable that adult smokers, now more than 20 percent of the population, could be reduced to less than 5 percent in 20 years.

Other factors that could cut into tobacco use include the sharp rise in prices — Congress earlier this year approved a 62-cent a pack increase in the federal cigarette tax to pay for a children’s health program — and measures by the states to ban smoking in public places.

New FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said the agency was ready to “roll up our sleeves” to meet the new obligations.

The Senate passed the FDA bill on Thursday by a 79-17 vote and the House followed suit on Friday, with a 307-97 vote.

Marlboro maker Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company, came out in support of the bill, saying it was behind tough but fair regulation. Its chief rivals were opposed, saying that FDA restrictions on new products would lock in Philip Morris’ share of the market.

Costs of the new program will be paid for by a new user fee imposed on the industry. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that assessments could rise from $235 million in 2010 to $712 million in 2019.

___

The bill is H.R. 1256.

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